What is a ‘good mother’?

I have been struggling with this for years. All the trans generational messages passed down to me from both sides of my family have always indicated that when you become a mother, your prime responsibility is to you child; i.e a career is not something associated with being a ‘good’ mother. Good mothers spend all their time with their children. They are physically there for them when their kids need them (when does a child not need their mother? I still need mine!). Is that even possible?

Last week, Number 2 was very sick; we were suspecting scarlet fever but it turned out to be a terrible stomach infection. The always-present knot in my stomach tightened at the thought of the coming days where work and motherhood would play a more intense tug of war. Guit. Guilt as a mother. Guilt as a person responsible for a business. My constant companion. My soul sister. No matter how hard I try to shed her, she sticks loyally to me refusing to let go. I have a pretty good deal. My work is my passion and the organisations I have worked for have always respected that. Work at home arrangements, flexible clocking in and clocking out have enabled me to give my best to work and my best to my kids. If this were not the case, I would not work. I have great household help to look after my kids when I’m not there, all who have been with me since before my babies were born. And yet, I spent the good part of last week crying myself to sleep, crying outside my office, crying before and after seeing clients (and I’m supposed to be a voice when it comes to Pregnancy and Parenting) at the thought of leaving my poor sick baby alone!

This piece is a result of two conversations I had with two of my closest girlfriends. The first one asked me why I work if it tears me up so much and this was my reply:

  1. To have something of my own so I don’t focus all my attention on my children (eventually they will outgrow me)
  2. To teach them to be independent – it is not possible for Mama to always be around
  3. To be a role model – it is important to pursue your dreams; to have a purpose

My friend responded that these were pretty good reasons for spending that time away from the kids and all logical reasons why this decision should also benefit them. I was not convinced. My other friend asked me to pen down what my definition of a good mother was. She suggested that perhaps my struggle was because of a clash between my child (the part of me that still carries messages from my childhood) and my adult (my present, rational self) and it was time to address this. Being a student of Transactional Analysis therapy, I understand that there comes a time when we become so aware of the patterns we keep repeating that they need to be addressed and so I accepted the next challenge, which was to pen down my definition of a ‘Good Mother.’ Here goes:

  1. One who is ‘present’ with her children. Gives them full attention and response with focused eye contact, body language and words.
  2. One who disciplines them when required, gives them values, teaches the difference between right and wrong.
  3. One who is there to soothe them when they are upset, kiss their ouchies, wipe their tears, massage away their aches and pains.
  4. One who is not always with them but provides them with the security to know that she WILL always try her best to be there as soon as possible. And until then, gives them the confidence in their own ability to cope on their own.
  5. One who exposes them to all that the world has to offer, encourages them to be confident enough to go get what they want and be okay if they don’t get it all the time.
  6. One who teaches them to give it their best, to never stop trying, to know that nothing is beyond their reach and yet one who is willing to throw out all rules and schedules every now and then to dance in the rain and eat donuts for dinner.
  7. One who is not afraid to show her kids that it is OK to be human – to cry once in a while, to lose some, to make mistakes and to say sorry. For it is only then that children learn that when you get knocked down, you can get up again and when you fail, success is just around the corner.
  8. Most of all, one who shows them that love is not shown by the amount of time spent together, but by the type of time spent together and that each minute, the ups, the downs, is worth it because it is part of the journey called life.

There are plenty of stay-at-home moms who are there at home every day with their kids, who make it to every extracurricular activity and every classmate’s birthday party. But do they really make their time with their kids count more than I do? I am up with my kids every morning, dress them, eat brekkie with them and give them Reiki before school. I coordinate their activities and meals while at work and have made it to every performance, award ceremony and PTM that any of them have ever had. I rush back from work to ensure I am the one who bathes them, feeds them and puts them to bed with a story and our nightly prayers. Our weekends are choc-a-block with activities like swimming, cycling at India gate, movies and play dates.

Every mom has a different parenting style except for one thing – we all do what we feel is best for our children. So if I am doing my best, what more can my kids ask for? When I look at them, they are happy, healthy, curious, all-rounded children. I turned from Marketing professional to Birth Professional because motherhood inspired me to support other moms. Now if only I could extricate myself from that loyal best friend – Guilt, life would be its chaotic, mad, fun, perfect best. Cut yourself some slack Supermom!

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